Bias, Bullshit & Lies: How can publishers win back audience trust?
Based on thousands of open-ended responses, the latest Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism report delves into why the professional news media is still largely to blame for low trust.
Suitably titled, Bias, Bullshit and Lies, Nic Newman and Dr. Richard Fletcher found that bias, spin and agenda came across as the main reasons for distrusting the news media and social media. Across nine markets, only 40 percent of those surveyed believe journalists do a good job in checking sources, verifying facts, and providing evidence to back up claims.
So what steps can publishers take to improve trust in their journalism? Fortunately in light of the findings, the report outlines key recommendations for publishers and technology platforms.
Let’s take a look at some of the reports main recommendations…
If journalists become distant from other people’s lives, they miss the story, and people don’t trust them.”
1. Distinguish journalism from the mass of information
Social media is trusted less in the ability to separate fact from fiction. Respondents also blamed social media users for sharing stories online without reading them.
One way publishers can improve trust in their journalism is by differentiating themselves from information that has not gone through the same professional process.
During the EU referendum, the BBC launched Reality Check, an initiative to combat misleading stories online.
In a blog post, James Harding, director of news and current affairs at the BBC wrote, “I’m proud to say, we are taking another step that will enable young people to tell the difference between what is real and what is fake, what is true and what is false”.
Harding referred to the spread of information online as “frequently, perhaps mostly, unmediated – there is no one checking that it is true, or fair, or even legal”.
In October 2018, fact-checking charity Full Fact will launch an automated fact-checking tool. The tool is being built to live fact-check as well as have track claims that are trending online.
Phoebe Arnold, head of communications and impact at fact-checking charity Full Fact advised that journalists should, “trace a figure right back to its source before quoting it, every time.”
Trace a figure right back to its source before quoting it, every time”
2. Focus on newsroom diversity
The report uncovered a sense of disconnect between journalists and the general public. This is particularly prevalent among young and low income groups. Researchers recommend greater diversity in newsrooms to broaden coverage and add a plurality of voices.
In the last decade, newsrooms have made slow progress to improve their diversity.
The latest ASNE newsroom diversity found that women made up 39.1 percent of all American newsroom employees in 2017, a 1 percent rise since 2001. Out of 661 American news organizations, people of colour made up only 16.55 percent.
In a speech late last year, Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief of The Guardian said, “If journalists become distant from other people’s lives, they miss the story, and people don’t trust them.” Viner has pledged to address the diversity problem in the newsroom.
What will you find in the report?
Key findings include:
- Perceptions of social media across nine markets
- More reasons for why people trust and distrust the media
- Further recommendations for improving trust
Find out more by downloading the Bias, Bullshit and Lies report.